The Legend of the Condor Heroes – Chapter 14

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88 min read

Master of Taohua Island.

Original translation by foxs

What he saw was six people – five men and one woman entering the hall, they were the Six Freaks of Jiangnan. They have been wandering around the north and south, and on that particular day had arrived at the Tai Lake, where they met some Jianghu people on a boat who received them attentively.

They have left their hometown for such a long time that they did not know the current affair of the martial arts world. They weren’t sure who these people were, so Zhu Cong exchanged some pleasantries with them. Turned out these people were Chief Zhang and his men from the Village of the Returning Wind.

They have received order from Lu Guanying to guard the lake and to report any unusual activities. They did not know who these six people were, and since these six wield weapons, they inclined to think these six were the enemies of the Old Village Master. Therefore, Manager Zhang acted in utmost prudence and received the six cordially, inviting them to enter the village; while at the same time sent report to the Village Master immediately.

Guo Jing however, was ecstatic to see his six masters. Quickly he knelt down and greeted them one by one, “First Master, Second Master, Third Master, Fourth Master, Sixth Master, and Seventh Master! All of you are here! This really is wonderful!” He was rather boorish; but through his spontaneity everybody could see his sincerity and genuine delight.

The Six Freaks were angry with him over Huang Rong affair, yet in all honesty they loved him dearly. They were pleasantly surprised to see him and all angers simply vanished into the thin air.

“Child, where is that female demon of yours?” Han Baoju could not help scolding him.

Han Xiaoying however, had a pair of sharp eyes. She saw Huang Rong wearing men’s clothing sat among the people. She tugged Han Baoju’s sleeve and whispered, “Calm down. We will talk this over later.”

Initially Village Master Lu also suspected that his enemies had arrived, but then he saw that these six were total strangers to him; moreover, Guo Jing had addressed them as his masters. He was relieved. Cupping his fists in respect he apologized, “I am invalid on the legs; please forgive me for not standing up to welcome you,” and immediately gave order to prepare another banquet table for the guests.

Without wasting another second Guo Jing immediately introduced his Masters. Village Master Lu was delighted, he said, “I have heard your illustrious names and admired you for a long time. It is very fortunate to finally meet you in person today.” His manner was very cordial.

Qiu Qianren on the other hand, did not show any interest in these six guests. He simply smiled faintly and kept eating and drinking.

Han Baoju was irritated and could not keep his temper. “And who is this gentleman?” he asked.

“I am pleased to introduce to you, Six Masters,” Village Master Lu proudly said, “This is the highly respected Senior of the Wulin world, the Taishan (Mount Tai) and the Big Dipper (or Big Bear) Constellation [meaning – the ultimate] of this present age.”
The Six Freaks were startled. “Is he the Peach Blossom Island Master Huang Yaoshi?” asked Han Xiaoying. “Could he be the nine-fingered divine beggar – Hong Qigong?” asked Han Baoju.

Village Master Lu smiled and explained, “No, he is neither. He is the iron palm floating on the water, Senior Qiu.”

“He is Senior Qiu Qianren?” Ke Zhen’E asked, surprised by the revelation.

Qiu Qianren laughed heartily, his face was smug.

By that time the villagers had finished preparing a new banquet table and the Six Freaks took their seats. Guo Jing wanted to sit with his masters. He tugged Huang Rong’s hand to go together, but Huang Rong simply smiled and shook her head. She was not willing to sit with the Six Freaks.

Village Master Lu laughed and said, “I thought Brother Guo did not know martial arts. Who would have known that you are the disciple of the well-known Masters. Truly my eyes are blind, could not see the hidden treasure right in front of me …”

Guo Jing stood up. “My skill is mediocre,” he said, “I was indeed taught by my Masters. I do not dare to show off in front of Village Master. I beg your forgiveness.”

Ke Zhen’E was delighted listening to their conversation. He was proud that Guo Jing was well-behaved.

Qiu Qianren suddenly said, “The Six Freaks of the South Jiangnan are the prominent characters of the Jianghu world. This old man has a very important matter to deal. It would be great if I could acquire your valuable assistance.”

“Senior Qiu was just about to explain the matter when the six guests arrived,” explained the Village Master. “Now would Senior please enlighten us?”

Qiu Qianren complied, he said, “For us who live in the Jianghu world, the ultimate purpose of our existence is chivalry: helping the suffering people. Right now we see it with our own eyes the Jin army is moving south. If our Song Dynasty cannot discern good from bad and is not willing to surrender, as soon as the war breaks I wonder how many lives will perish? As the saying goes, ‘shun tian zhe chang, ni tian zhe wang’ [following Heaven’s will means prosperity, opposing Heaven’s will means death]. Therefore, this old man is going to the South to make contact with the valiant people of the South; to take arms together with the Jin army and attack the Song Dynasty from both sides, to render it helpless, and thus it does not have any choice but surrender. If we succeed, not only we will gain riches and honor, but the gratefulness of the common people as well. That way our martial arts skills are not useless, and we do not render these two characters ‘xia yi’ (chivalry) in vain.”

Hearing this, the Six Freaks’ countenances were flushed. Both Han brother and sister were ready to open their mouths. Luckily Quan Jinfa – who sat between them, quickly pulled their sleeves and signaled with his eyes toward the Village Master, hinting that they should wait to see how the master would respond.

So far Village Master Lu had showed great admiration to Qiu Qianren; but to suddenly listen to his speech he was unable to restrain his great surprise. He forced a smile and said, “Even though Junior is unworthy, my body is as worthless as mere grass, but I have never dared to forget loyalty. The Jin army is going south to attack my country; they mean harm to the people. Junior will certainly join other Jiangnan heroes to fight the invaders to my death. Senior, what you just said, was that to test me?”

“Brother Lu, how could you be so short sighted?” Qiu Qianren asked. “What good is it to help the Song fight the Jin? Most likely you will end up as Yue Wu Mu, who suffered a tragic death at the Crisis Pavilion.”

Listening to this the Village Master Lu was shocked and angered at the same time. Initially he thought he could count on Qiu to help him deal with the Twin Killers of Dar Wind; who would have thought that he was persuaded to betray his own country instead. It was useless to possess a high skill of martial arts if the person had such a low character and this shameless. He flicked his sleeve and said, “Junior is facing a formidable enemy even tonight. I was going to ask Senior to help me uphold the justice; but since we do not hold the same value, I do not dare to entertain your honorable presence even if blood would splash from my neck. Please!” He cupped his fists. His intention was clear; he did not want the guest to stay any longer.

The Six Freaks of Jiangnan – along with Guo Jing and Huang Rong, were delighted and secretly admired their host.

Qiu Qianren smiled, but did not say anything. His left hand gripped the wine cup, his right hand moved toward the cup mouth, revolving the cup around in his hand. Suddenly he flipped his right hand and flicked the cup away. To everybody’s amazement the cup was cut smooth into two parts: the cup bottom and about half an inch of porcelain ring. To crush the cup is not difficult, but to cut the cup smooth was a demonstration of profound energy worthy of everybody’s respect.

Village Master Lu realized he was being threatened. But while he was still hesitating, Horse God Han Baoju had already leaped out of his seat. Angrily he called out, “Shameless scoundrel, let us see who is superior, you or I!”

Qiu Qianren did not falter. “I have heard the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan’s stellar reputation for a long time. Today I want to see whether what I heard is true or not. All six of you, come!”

Village Master Lu knew Han Baoju was no match to the old man. He was delighted to hear the old man challenged all six of them. He quickly said, “The Six Freaks of Jiangnan always move forward and backward together. Facing a single enemy or fighting an army, the six go together, not a single one of them willing to be left behind.”

Zhu Cong understood very well the Village Master’s intention. “Very well,” he said, “let us six brothers and sister fight this famous Wulin character!” He waved his hand and immediately his five brothers and sister left their seats.

Qiu Qianren also stood up; he picked his chair up and strolled to the center of the hall, laid down the chair and sat down; his right foot above his left. Calmly he said, “This old man will fight you sitting down.”

Ke Zhen’E and the others were startled. He knew that the old man would not dare to act so arrogantly if he did not have a very high level of martial arts.

While his six masters have not made any move yet, Guo Jing quickly moved forward. He had heard amazing stories about this old man’s kungfu, and knew his masters were not this old man’s match. He had received his masters’ kindness and even though he knew the risk, he stepped in front of his masters and boldly said, “Junior is asking for some lessons from the Senior.”

Qiu Qianren was surprised, but then exploded in laughter. “It wasn’t easy for your parent to raise you. Why would you waste your unworthy life for nothing in this place?”

Ke Zhen’E and the others called out almost in unison, “Jing’er, move back!”

But Guo Jing was determined. He was afraid his masters would hold him back, so without saying anything he bent his left leg a little bit and moved his right palm in a circular motion, and then thrust it forward, hard. It was the Proud Dragon Showing Remorse from the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’, which he had trained hard unceasingly up to that day; therefore, it could not be compared with when Hong Qigong first taught him.

Qiu Qianren had seen Han Baoju’s skill when he leaped out of his seat. It wasn’t extraordinary. Naturally, he thought Han’s disciple would not be good either. It was beyond his comprehension that Guo Jing’s attack was so fierce. He was shocked and hastily leaped up from his chair, only to hear a loud cracking sound. His chair was destroyed by Guo Jing’s palm.

“Confounded kid!” he shouted angrily when his body had landed back on the ground.

Guo Jing was a bit wary; he did not dare to advance. “Senior, please give me some pointers,” he said politely.

Huang Rong wanted to disturb Qiu Qianren’s mind, she called out, “Brother Jing, don’t be so polite to this old scoundrel!”

The old man was livid! Ever since he roamed the Jianghu, who would dare to call him ‘old scoundrel’ in front of his face? He was about to jump and thrust his palm to attack her, but suddenly remembered his own reputation. He sneered and lifted his right hand and positioned his left hand on his eyebrows. And then right when Guo Jing moved sideways to fend, redirected his hand to make a claw and retracted it, while the hand on his eyebrows moved forward in circular motion. His right hand followed, changed from fist to palm.

Huang Rong called out, “What’s so special about the move? That is the Lone Goose Leaves the Flock from the Open Arm Six Arms Technique!”

Qiu Qianren was surprised she recognized his move. It was indeed the Open Arm Six Arms Technique, which was created based on the Open Arm Five Elements Technique. It was not an extraordinary move; but he had perfected this move for decades. The word ‘open’ here actually meant that his right and left arms were interchangeable. Guo Jing saw his right hand coming fast, while his left hand moving to the right, then the right hand went back and supported the left hand. So both hands were supporting each other, increasing the strength of both hands. Very fierce.

Guo Jing had seen his amazing strength, and then actually faced him in combat. He was a little bit nervous and did not dare to counterattack. He kept stepping back.

Qiu Qianren thought, “This kid could destroy a chair due to his strength, but actually his martial arts is only so-so.” He immediately launched several stances: ‘chuan zhang shan pi’ [lit. penetrating palm hacking down in a flash], ‘liao yin zhang’ [lit. lifting the cloud palm technique], ‘kua hu deng shan’ [lit. step across the tiger to climb a mountain], getting stronger with each stance.

Huang Rong was anxious seeing Guo Jing was losing. She approached the two with the intention of stepping in if Guo Jing was in danger.

Guo Jing saw her coming near, he turned his head to see her anxious face and could not help but feel nervous. Qiu Qianren saw this and wasting no time he attacked with ‘bai she tu zhi’ [White Snake Spitting Sign], his palm hit Guo Jing squarely on the chest.

Huang Rong and the Six Freaks – as well as Master Lu and his son, all cried in alarm. They thought with Qiu’s strength hitting such a vital part, Guo Jing must have been dead or at least severely injured.

Guo Jing was also shocked, so he immediately circulated his chi and lifted both arms up. Strangely, he did not feel too much pain, which puzzled him to no end. Huang Rong saw him staring blankly, thought that he was internally injured and was about to pass out. She immediately jumped forward to support him and asked anxiously, “Brother Jing, are you all right?” Her heart was so shaken that tears flowed from her eyes involuntarily.

Guo Jing’s response was unexpected, “I am all right! Let me try again.” He stuck his chest out and walked toward Qiu Qianren, boldly said, “You are the Senior Hero Iron Palm, hit me again!”

Qiu Qianren was furious; he immediately hit another palm to Guo Jing’s chest with all his might. But instead of collapsing, Guo Jing laughed loudly and shouted, “Masters! Rong’er! This old scoundrel’s skill is only ordinary. As long as he did not hit me, his secret was safe, but as soon as he hit me, his secret is revealed!” His word was followed by a sweep of his left arm; forcing Qiu Qianren to step back. “You can feel my palm too!” he shouted.

Qiu Qianren saw his movement and thought, “You said ‘palm’ but your hand forms a fist, do you think I am blind?” He underestimated Guo Jing’s attack; he simply blocked the fist with both hands in front of his chest. Who would have known that Guo Jing was using the ‘long zhan yu ye’ [Dragon Fight out of the Field], the most mysterious stance of the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’; where both left and right arms could be either solid or void without any specific rule.

Qiu Qianren saw Guo Jing’s left arm moved while his right arm loose; but suddenly the right arm thrust forward and hit Qiu Qianren on the right shoulder, followed by a punch on his chest. Qiu Qianren’s body flew out of the hall through the main entrance like a kite with broken string!

Everybody uttered a startled cry. But somebody suddenly appeared at the entrance. She held Qiu Qianren on his collar, entering the main hall in big strides. She put Qiu Qianren down on the floor and stood stoically at the center of the hall. Her face was cold without any expression. Her long hair scattered on her shoulder. Her head looked up. She was none other than the Iron Corpse Mei Chaofeng. Every heart skipped a beat.

Behind her was another person no less peculiar than the Iron Corpse. That person was tall and rather thin; wearing a dark green robe. His countenance was pale and expressionless. Other than his rolling eyes, the rest of his face was stiff like a wooden statue. He stood still and stiff like a standing corpse. As soon as everybody saw this person, a chill crept on their backs. They immediately turned their gaze away from this person, did not dare to look at his face anymore; their hearts thumping.

Master Lu was perplexed. He would never think that the world famous Qiu Qianren would unexpectedly collapsed just from the first blow of his opponent. He was going to smile, but seeing Mei Chaofeng arrived his smile froze.

Wanyan Kang saw his master and was very excited. He immediately stepped forward to pay his respect. Everybody could see these two: master and disciple were actually similar in appearance and could not help but were astonished.

Master Lu raised his cupped fists and said, “Martial Sister Mei, it’s been twenty long years. Finally we meet here. How is Martial Brother Chen?”

The Six Freaks exchanged glances with Guo Jing. They clearly heard Master Lu calling her ‘Martial Sister’, and could not help but feel dismayed. Ke Zhen’E was upset. “We fall into a trap today,” he said. “Mei Chaofeng alone is not easy to deal with, now she has her martial brother along.”

Huang Rong on the other hand secretly nodded her head. “This Master’s martial arts and literature knowledge, as well as his general conduct and manner of speaking resemble those of my father. I had suspected he must have a family relationship with us. Who would have thought he is my father’s disciple.”

Mei Chaofeng coldly replied, “Is the speaker my martial brother Lu Chengfeng?”

“Yes, I am,” answered Master Lu. “Has Martial Sister been well since our last meeting?”

“Why did you ask?” answered Mei Chaofeng. “Both my eyes are blind. Can’t you see it? Your Martial Brother Xuanfeng has been murdered a long time ago. That was your expectation, wasn’t it?”

Master Lu was both pleasantly surprised and shocked. The Twin Killers of the Dark Wind had roamed the Jianghu and turned it upside-down. How could the Copper Corpse be murdered? But he was also relieved because he had one less formidable enemy; moreover, the one left behind was blind. However, he recalled their apprenticeship together at the Peach Blossom Island, and could not help but feeling sad. “Who had killed Martial Brother Chen?” he sighed and asked. “Has Martial Sister sought revenge?”

“I have wandered everywhere looking for them,” Mei Chaofeng answered.

“Let Little Brother help you,” Master Lu said. “Afterward we can sort out our own business.”

“Humph!” Mei Chaofeng sneered.

“Mei Chaofeng!” Han Baoju could not hold himself. He slapped the table and shouted, “Your archenemies are here!”

He was going to pounce on her, but Quan Jinfa quickly pulled him back. Mei Chaofeng on the other hand, was taken aback. “You … you …” she stammered.

At that time Qiu Qianren – who was silent because he felt chest pain from Guo Jing’s punch, felt his pain subsided. He opened his mouth to say, “What is it you were talking about? Revenge? Why, your own master was killed and you don’t know it? What kind of hero are you?”

“What did you say?” Mei Chaofeng almost screamed. She tightly crushed Qiu Qianren’s hand that he cried in pain, “Let go! Let go!”

Mei Chaofeng ignored him, “What did you say?” she repeated.

“The Master of Peach Blossom Island has been killed!” Qiu Qianren answered.

Lu Chengfeng was really shocked. “Is that true?” he anxiously asked.

“Why not true?” Qiu Qianren answered. “He was surrounded and killed by the Quan Zhen Seven Masters, Wang Chongyang’s disciples.”

Before he finished speaking Mei Chaofeng and Lu Chengfeng have already cried loudly. With a loud thud Huang Rong fell backward from her chair; passed out. Everybody else initially did not believe that with his expertise Huang Yaoshi would easily be killed by anybody, but since it was the Quan Zhen Seven Masters, they had to believe. They knew very well the combined power of Ma Yu, Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi and the others would be difficult for Huang Yaoshi to fight.

Guo Jing panic, he hugged Huang Rong and called out, “Rong’er, wake up!” He saw Huang Rong’s countenance was deathly pale and her breathing uneven; he was even more anxious and called his masters, “Master! Master! Help!”

Zhu Cong immediately came over and examined her nose. “Don’t worry,” he said. “She was only shocked; she is not going to die.” Then he rubbed her ‘lao gong xue’ [lit. fatigue palace acupoint] slowly transferring his internal energy.

Huang Rong slowly recovered. “Father? Father! I want my Father!” she cried.

Lu Chengfeng was surprised, but immediately realized. “She is Master’s daughter. No wonder she knew about the ‘Nine Flower Dew Jade Pill’.” He shed some tears and loudly called out, “Little Martial Sister, let us go to those scoundrel priests from Quan Zhen to seek revenge. Mei Chaofeng! Are you … are you coming or not? If you don’t go, let me fight you to the death right now! It … it was because of you that Master had met his fate.”

Lu Guanying saw his father was too deep in sorrow to speak coherently. He quickly support him and urged, “Father, please don’t be so sad. We need further consideration.”

Lu Chengfeng ignored his son, he cried louder. “Mei Chaofeng! You bitch! How you have done me much harm! You are shameless! You ran away with your man, it was all right with me, but why did you have to steal Master’s Nine Yin Manual as well? In his anger he had severed our legs’ ligament, we four martial brothers. Not only that, he expelled us from the Peach Blossom Island. I was hoping Master would change his mind and have compassion on us who didn’t do anything deserving our punishment. Now he passed away, my hope is shattered …”

“I always thought you are spineless,” Mei Chaofeng scolded, “and you are still spineless. Three – four times you have taken other people to deal with us, forcing us – husband and wife to be without shelter, we had to run away for our lives and ended up suffering in the Mongolian desert. Now you don’t have guts to seek revenge for our Master, but nagging to settle your own old debts with me. I’ll say we go and find those seven scoundrels and deal with them. If you can’t walk, I’ll carry you!”

All the while Huang Rong was still weeping, “Father! I want my Father!”

Zhu Cong intervened, “Let us ask more clearly,” he said, walking toward Qiu Qianren. He brushed some dust on Qiu Qianren’s clothes and apologetically said, “My young disciple was ignorant and had offended you, he has no regard of seniority.”

Qiu Qianren was angry, “I am old, my eyes are not clear, I let it slipped. Come, let us fight again!”

Zhu Cong patted his shoulder, pulled his left hand gently and persuaded with a smile, “Senior is an expert, no need to fight with him.” As soon as they got to the table, Zhu Cong picked a wine cup up with his left hand, while his right hand covered the cup mouth, revolving it around just like Qiu did, and flicked the cup to the table.

With a clanking sound the wine cup landed on the table, broken into two parts: the cup bottom and about half an inch of porcelain ring. Exactly like what Qiu Qianren demonstrated earlier. Everybody was amazed!

Zhu Cong smiled and said, “Senior’s skill is extraordinary. Junior has stolen it from you. Please forgive my offense. Many thanks to you.”

Qiu Qianren’s face changed color immediately. Now everybody knew there must be some tricks somehow, but nobody knew what was really going on.

“Jing’er, come here!” Zhu Cong called, “Let me teach you a trick, later on you can use it to deceive other people.”

Guo Jing came near, and Zhu Cong showed him a ring on his left middle finger. “This is the Senior Qiu’s belonging, I borrowed it from him a moment ago. You go ahead and put it on you,” he said while taking the ring off his own finger.

Qiu Qianren was startled, then fuming mad. He did not understand how the ring on his finger could move to Zhu’s finger. In the meantime Guo Jing had already taken the ring. Zhu Cong explained, “This ring has a diamond piece on it, the hardest material on earth. Put the diamond tip on the wine cup and rotate the cup with your right hand.”

Guo Jing did so. Now Lu Guanying and the others started to understand. They were unable to restrain a smile and softly murmured among themselves. Guo Jing turned the cup in his right hand and sure enough, the cup was smoothly broken into two parts. If one looked carefully, actually the diamond had left a deep mark on the porcelain pieces; so it wasn’t profound internal energy at all.

Huang Rong was amused, she was smiling through her tears; but then the memory of her father came flooding back and she cried again.

“Don’t cry, Miss,” Zhu Cong comforted her, “This Senior Qiu loves to deceive people, and his words cannot be necessarily true.” Huang Rong was puzzled; she looked at him with a questioning look.

“Your father, the Venerable Huang’s martial art is so profound, how could he be easily killed by other people?” Zhu Cong said with a smile. “Also, the Quan Zhen Seven Masters are respectable people, plus, they have no enmity with your father. How could they kill him without any reason?”

“Perhaps it was over Qiu Chuji and the other ox-nose’s [derogatory term for Taoist priests] martial uncle Zhou Botong’s business,” Huang Rong expressed her guess.

“What business is that?” Zhu Cong asked.

“You don’t know,” Huang Rong said, crying again. Even with her intelligence, she was not really sure what was really happening. First of all, it has something to do with her mother; that Huang Yaoshi did not want to talk too much about. Second, the business between her father and Zhou Botong was more complicated than her young mind could grasp. She did not want to believe the Quan Zhen Seven Masters would attack her father, but the fact was: she was not sure.

“Whatever it was, I’d say this old man’s word is a little bit smelly,” Zhu Cong said.

“You mean he was only … only …,” Huang Rong stuttered.

“Yes, he was just farting!” Zhu Cong laughed. “He has so many tricks stored in his pocket; guess what he would do with them.” Then he groped into his pocket and produced some things which he placed on the table. Among those things were two bricks, some dry grass, a piece of cloth to light up fire, a knife with the same purpose, and a flint.

Huang Rong took a brick and as soon as she tightened her grips she could feel the brick was soft. She crushed it harder and without too much effort the brick crumbled into powder. After listening to Zhu Cong’s words her sadness was greatly reduced. Her face broke into a smile, showing up her two dimples. “This brick was made from bread flour. He was using it to demonstrate his profound internal energy earlier.”

Qiu Qianren’s face turned from pale to red and back to pale. He was greatly ashamed. He thought with the news of Huang Yaoshi’s death everybody’s attention could be diverted that he would find an opportunity to escape. Who would have thought that his scheme was revealed by Zhu Cong. He flicked his sleeve and turned around to walk out. But Mei Chaofeng reached backward and snatched his body, then threw it on the ground.

“You said my Master passed away, did you tell the truth?” she asked menacingly. Qiu Qianren was too much in pain to say anything, he was only whimpering.

Huang Rong saw the grass was half burnt; she immediately realized what happened. “Second Master, try to light the grass, put it inside your sleeve then inhale and exhale.”

The Six Freaks of Jiangnan initially had some problem with Huang Rong, but Qiu Qianren’s trickery had united them in facing the common enemy. Zhu Cong happily complied. Actually he liked Huang Rong’s cunning mind and her eccentricity; and now Huang Rong called him ‘Second Master’ he liked her even more. He did what was asked and while doing that, he even closed his eyes and swayed his head solemnly.

Huang Rong clapped her hands in delight. “Brother Jing,” she said laughing happily, “Didn’t we see this old man practicing his internal strength a while ago exactly like this?” She walked to Qiu Qianren’s side and said, “Stand up!” She pulled him up, but suddenly struck his ‘shen dao’ [holy way?] acupoint under his fifth rib on his back with her left hand, using the ‘lan hua fu xue shou’ [orchid acupoint sealing technique]; while shouting loudly, “Tell me, did my father die? If you say he did, I will take your life away!” With a flip of her hand she placed a shiny butterfly shaped steel on his chest.

Everybody was amused hearing her threat. She asked him the truth but she didn’t want him to say Huang Yaoshi was dead.

Qiu Qianren was writhing in pain, also suffering from itch. “I am afraid he is not dead yet. I don’t know …” he said, trembling.

Huang Rong beamed from ear to ear. “Very good!” she said, “I will spare you.” She struck his ‘que pen’ [open basin] acupoint to ease up his suffering.

Lu Chengfeng thought, “Little Martial Sister’s question was one-sided and really missed the point.” So he asked, “You said my Master has been killed by the Quan Zhen Seven Masters, did you see it with your own eyes, or did you just hear it from somebody else?”

“I heard it from somebody else,” Qiu Qianren replied. “Who was it?” Lu Chengfeng pursued.

Qiu Qianren hesitated, but finally said, “It was Hong Qigong.”

“When did he tell you that?” asked Huang Rong.

“About a month ago,” Qiu Qianren answered.

“Where did you two meet?” Huang Rong asked again.

“At the summit of Mount Tai [taishan],” Qiu Qianren answered. “We were having a match and he lost to me. He unintentionally mentioned this.”

Huang Rong was ecstatic. She hopped around like a little kid. Her left hand grabbed his chest, her right hand pulled away some of his beard. Giggling she said, “Hong Qigong lost to this old scoundrel? Martial Sister Mei, Martial Brother Lu, don’t listen to him, he was just … just …” Being a girl she didn’t have a heart to say vulgar language.

Zhu Cong continued for her, “He was just farting!” then he covered his mouth, laughing.

Huang Rong continued, “A month ago Hong Qigong was obviously with Brother Jing and I. Brother Jing, give him another blow!”

“Right!” Guo Jing said, moving toward Qiu Qianren.

Qiu Qianren was scared; he turned around to escape, but Mei Chaofeng was standing in the middle of the door. He turned around again, but this time Lu Guanying blocked his way. He quickly pushed until Guanying staggered and fell. Even though he gained his fame by deceiving people, Qiu Qianren still possessed some real martial art skill. If he didn’t, he would not recklessly dare to challenge the Six Freaks and Guo Jing. Lu Guanying was certainly not his match.

Huang Rong jumped to block him. “You carried an iron cauldron over your head and walked on water, how did you do it?” she asked.

“That was my special skill,” Qiu Qianren answered. “My title is ‘Iron Palm Floating above the Water’; that was the ‘Floating above the Water’.”

“You are still boasting,” Huang Rong said with a smile. “Aren’t you going to tell me the truth?”

“I am old, my martial art is not as it used to be,” Qiu Qianren answered. “But my lightness kungfu has been trained to perfection.”

“Very well,” Huang Rong said, “There is a large golden fish bowl outside at the courtyard. Why don’t you demonstrate your ‘Floating above the Water’ that everybody can see your skill? Just go out the hall, turn left underneath the sweet-smelling ‘gui hua’ [osmanthus] tree.”

“How can someone trains in a fish bowl …?” Qiu Qianren had not finished speaking when something flashed brightly in front of his eyes, and without him realizing it his foot had been caught and he was hung upside down.

“Your death is imminent, yet you still open your big mouth!” Mei Chaofeng shouted. Her ‘du long yin bian’ [poisonous silver dragon whip] curled midair and hurled him toward the fish bowl following Huang Rong’s direction.

Huang Rong quickly followed to the fish bowl, waving her butterfly shaped steel menacingly. “I won’t let you out of the bowl unless you explain to me your ‘Floating above the Water’!”

Qiu Qianren kicked the bowl bottom, trying to leap up, but Huang Rong’s steel punctured him on the shoulder. He fell back into the bowl, soaking wet. With face cringed from pain he said, “That cauldron was inlaid with thin sheet of iron, the mouth was sealed, above it I put three inches deep of water. In that creek I had hidden some wooden poles about five, six inches from the surface; to make them invisible.”

Huang Rong laughed, then she re-entered the hall, did not pay Qiu Qianren any more attention. He quickly leaped up the bowl and hastily ran out the hall without looking back.

Mei Chaofeng and Lu Chengfeng smiled in embarrassment. They have fought and cried over nothing. Their master was not killed. Everything was that old scoundrel Qiu Qianren’s blabbering mouth. Now that this matter was made clear, they felt uneasy toward each other. Mei Chaofeng hesitated for a moment, then clearing her throat she said, “Lu Chengfeng, let my disciple go. For the sake of our Master I won’t remember our past differences anymore. As for the fact that both of us husband and wife had to run to Mongolia … oh well, that was our fate.”

Lu Chengfeng heaved a deep sigh. He said in his heart, “Her husband had died, her eyes blinded. She is alone and forsaken in this world. Both my legs are crippled, but I have a wife and a son. I have a family and I have a business. Actually my condition is hundred times better than hers. Both of us are decades older than we were, why would I keep having a resentment toward her?” Therefore, he answered, “You can take your disciple away. Mei Shijie [older martial sister], your little brother will leave for the Peach Blossom Island to visit our benevolent master tomorrow. Are you coming with me?”

“Do you dare?” Mei Chaofeng asked with a trembling voice.

“To visit the Peach Blossom Island without Master’s permission is a big violation of our school, but after listening to that old man Qiu talking nonsense, my heart was troubled. I want to make sure he is all right. If I don’t go, I will be haunted with uncertainty for the rest of my life.”

Before Mei Chaofeng could answer Huang Rong had already said, “Let us all go together. I will ask his forgiveness on your behalf.”

Mei Chaofeng was silent for a moment. Two lines of tears flowed down her cheeks. “I don’t have a face to see him,” she sadly said. “Benevolent Master had compassion on a wretched child like me. He took me as his disciple and raised me up. But because of wild ambition I have betrayed him …” Suddenly she lifted her head and shout, “I only want to seek revenge for my husband. Afterward, I know what to do. The Seven Freaks of Jiangnan, let us sort out our business now. Martial Brother Lu, Little Martial Sister, you stand aside, don’t even think of interfering. No matter who live or who die, I don’t want you to help either side. Do you hear?”

Ke Zhen’E walked in big strides to the main hall. His iron staff knocked the brick floor, then clearly he said with his hoarse voice, “Mei Chaofeng, you can’t see me, neither can I see you. That night when we fought on that barren hill, your husband died a violent death, but our fifth brother had also died in your hands. Did you know that?”

“Oh, so only six of you left?” Mei Chaofeng asked.

“We promised Taoist Priest Ma Yu to no longer seek enmity toward you, but it is you that actually looking for us. Good! Even though the world is wide, we always meet each other. Looks like the heaven won’t allow the six of us to co-exist with you in this world. Come!” Ke Zhen’E coldly said.

Mei Chaofeng snorted. “You six people can come together,” she said icily.

Zhu Cong and the other Freaks quickly arranged themselves near their elder brother, guarding against Mei Chaofeng’s sudden attack. Everybody unsheathed their weapons.

Suddenly Guo Jing moved forward. “Let disciple fight her first,” he said.

Lu Chengfeng was in an awkward situation. He heard Mei Chaofeng challenged and the six accepted. He did not know how to be the mediator. He hated himself for not having authority or influence over these people. But hearing Guo Jing an idea suddenly came to his mind. He quickly said, “Both sides please hold your hands for a moment. Please listen to Little Brother’s word. Although Mei Shijie and the Jiangnan Six have deep enmity between you, but each side had suffer an unfortunate loss. In the Little Brother’s opinion, no more blood needs to be shed. Let today’s match only decides victory or defeat, please don’t deepen the enmity anymore. The Six Freaks, although they always face enemy together, still it is six against one; which, in my opinion, is not fair. Why doesn’t Mei Shijie teach several moves to this young Brother Guo?”

Mei Chaofeng snorted and coldly said, “How could I fight an unknown junior?”

“Your husband died in my hands. What does it have to do with my Masters?” Guo Jing called out.

Mei Chaofeng was furious. She jumped and shouted, “Precisely! I will kill you little scoundrel first!” By listening to voices she knew where her enemy position was. Her five fingers were stretched toward Guo Jing’s skull.

Guo Jing leaped to avoid the attack. “Senior Mei!” he called out. “I was really young and ignorant. I accidentally killed your husband. One has to be responsible for one’s own action. Today you wanted to kill me; I won’t run away. But what if you still look for my Masters in the future?” He realized he was no match to Mei Chaofeng and was ready to die under her fingers; but was determined to protect his Masters in any way.

“You really aren’t going to run away?” Mei Chaofeng asked.

“No!” Guo Jing asserted.

“Good!” shouted Mei Chaofeng. “I am willing to write off the Six Freaks’ debt. Good boy, come follow me!”

“Mei Shijie, he is a real man. You on the other hand, will be the laughingstock of the heroes of Jianghu!” Huang Rong suddenly called out.

“How come?” Mei Chaofeng was angry.

“He is the only heir of Jiangnan’s Six Freaks’ skills,” Huang Rong explained. “The Six Freaks martial arts cannot be compared to the past. It really is a piece of cake if they really wanted to take your life. But actually they have forgiven you. Not only that, they also gave you face. It was you who don’t know the good from the bad; yet you are still boasting.”

“Bah! I want them to forgive me?” Mei Chaofeng was furious. “Six Freaks, your martial arts improved greatly? Want to try?”

“Why would they want to personally fight you? Even their disciple won’t necessarily lose to you,” Huang Rong said.

Mei Chaofeng was so angry she almost screamed, “If I can’t kill him in three stances, I will kill myself right here right now.” She had fought Guo Jing in the Zhao palace that she thought she knew his level of martial arts. What she didn’t know was that in the past few months Guo Jing had received the tutelage of the Nine-fingered Divine Beggar, that his skill now couldn’t be compared with his skill then.

“Good!” Huang Rong said, “Let all the people here bear witness. Three stances are too few, let’s give you ten.”

“I will accompany Senior Mei for fifteen stances,” said Guo Jing. He only learned fifteen out of the eighteen moves of the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’, hence he thought he could at least survive fifteen stances.

“Ask Martial Brother Lu and the guest who accompany you to be the witnesses,” Huang Rong added.

“Who accompanies me?” Mei Chaofeng was taken aback. “I rushed to this village alone. Who came with me?”

“Who is that behind you then?” Huang Rong asked.

Mei Chaofeng threw a backward punch, quick as lightning. Nobody saw the man moved, but her attack hit an empty space. That person moved like he was a ghost or spirit; the amazing part was that he moved without making any sound.

After she arrived in the south (Jiangnan), Mei Chaofeng always had a feeling that somebody was following her, but no matter how she spoke or she attacked, she could not even hear anything. She thought she was losing her mind, or it was a ghost haunting her. And then she heard the flute driving away the snakes, she was certain someone with a very high level of martial arts was shadowing her. She tried to express her gratitude to the air, but nobody answered. She waited among the trees, but was not sure if that person had already left. Now she heard Huang Rong spoke, she was unable to hide her feeling.

“Who are you?” she tremblingly asked, “What do you want from me?”

That person did not answer. Nobody knew if he even heard the question. Mei Chaofeng thrust herself forward. That person did not seem to move but again she did not touch anything. Everybody was stunned. They had never seen someone with this person immeasurable skill.

Lu Chengfeng boldly asked, “Honorable Guest had come from a long way, I have not had the opportunity to welcome you. Would you please sit down and have a drink with me?”

That person turned around, seemingly floating on air he went outside.

Mei Chaofeng gathered her courage and asked, “Is Honorable Senior the one who played the flute to help me? Mei Chaofeng is deeply grateful.”

Nobody was able to restrain their amazement, being a blind woman, Mei Chaofeng had very sharp ears, but she could not hear that person leaving the hall.

“Mei Shijie, that person has already left,” Huang Rong said.

Mei Chaofeng was startled. “He did? I … How could I not hear him?”

“Go after him quickly, don’t boast yourself in here,” Huang Rong said.

Mei Chaofeng was dumbfounded. Her face showed sadness, yet there was a tinge of anger. Suddenly she shouted, “Guo Kid, take this!” She lifted both hands with all ten fingers stretched, emanating a spooky bluish green light under the candlelight; but she did not attack.

“I am here,” Guo Jing said.

As soon as Mei Chaofeng heard the word ‘I’ her right hand moved, followed by her left hand’s five fingers toward Guo Jing’s face.

Guo Jing saw her fast movement; he slightly leaned his body sideways and sending his left palm toward her. Mei Chaofeng heard the sound of the palm and was about to evade, but she was not fast enough for the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ exquisite move and her shoulder was struck. She was shaken and was forced to step back three steps. But her martial art was not weak. While stepping backward she sent her fingernails to counterattack. Guo Jing was taken by surprise; his right wrist was caught by Mei Chaofeng on three acupoints: ‘nei guan’ [inner gate], ‘wai guan’ [outer gate], and ‘hui zong’ [ancestor meeting]. Guo Jing had carefully heeded his masters warning, that Mei Chaofeng’s ‘nine yin white bone claw’ [jiu yin bai gu zhua] was very lethal; hence he guarded himself carefully. But now he could not avoid being grasped by those deadly fingers. “Not good!” he screamed. His whole body felt weak. In that critical moment he managed to bend his two fingers; and with his hand forming a half-palm-half-fist he hit her chest. That was the ‘qian long wu yong’ [hidden dragon is useless (?)]. It was supposed to be followed by his left hook – a brilliant stance difficult to fend off; but since his left wrist was in the enemy’s hand; he could only launch a half stance. But the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ was amazing; half stance was no small matter.

Mei Chaofeng heard the wind generated by this half-palm-half-fist move was incredible; she did not dare to parry, but tried to elude it. Still her shoulder was hit real hard and she was forced to let Guo Jing go.

Guo Jing was struggling to free himself; he pulled hard, so when his hand was suddenly free both people were thrown backward and each hit a pillar. The roof was shaken; bricks, stones and dust fell down the hall. Many village people cried and ran out to escape.

The Six Freaks of Jiangnan looked at each other with amazement but pleasantly surprised. “Where did Jing’er learn this kungfu?” they asked in their heart. Han Baoju looked at Huang Rong suspiciously; he thought she was the one who taught Guo Jing and secretly felt admiration, “Peach Blossom Island martial art is amazing.”

By now Guo Jing and Mei Chaofeng had engaged themselves in a fierce battle. Palms, fists, and claws were exchanged. Mei Chaofeng was furious; she fought with gusto. Guo Jing was calm but agile. Both had exerted their full strength, the hall was filled with the sound of their blows.

Suddenly Mei Chaofeng jumped vertically; her attack seemed to come from every direction, one after another, ever changing. Guo Jing knew this attack was fierce; he would suffer defeat if he let any opening in his defense line. He recalled Hong Qigong’s lesson on how to deal with Huang Rong’s ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ [fallen (flower) divine sword palm]; no matter how much changes his opponent executed he steadily used 15 moves out of the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’.

By repeating these 15 moves he was able to defend himself for forty – fifty moves; without giving Mei Chaofeng even half a step advantage.

Huang Rong was keeping her eyes on her ‘Brother Jing’ with smile on her pretty face. The Six Freaks stood with amazement, sometimes clucking their tongues in praise. Lu Chengfeng and his son could only look in dismay.

“Mei Shijie has improved so much,” Lu Chengfeng thought. “If I had to fight her, I will certainly lose my life in only ten moves … This young Brother Guo, how could he master such a profound kungfu in his young age? I was really blind … Luckily I had not been careless or indiscreet, but treated him with nothing but politeness and respect.”

Wanyan Kang was also upset, “I was supposed to contest this boy; but with his kungfu, how could I win?”

“Mei Shijie, you have been fighting for more than 80 moves. Why don’t you admit defeat?” Huang Rong loudly called out. Actually they have fought for only about 60 moves, but she exaggerated by adding twenty more moves.

Mei Chaofeng was fuming mad. “I have trained hard for dozens of years but cannot cope with this kid?” she thought. She ignored Huang Rong’s remark and increased the speed of her attacks. Her kungfu was actually many times better than Guo Jing’s; but first, she was put at a disadvantage because of her blindness, and second, she could not think straight because her heart was filled with rage in her effort to seek revenge for her husband. Anger is a big taboo in a battle between two martial art experts. Third, Guo Jing had the advantage of youth’s strength, plus he had mastered most of the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’. Therefore, the battle between these two was really fierce.

After about a hundred moves, Mei Chaofeng started to recognize and became more familiar with Guo Jing’s 15 moves. She knew Guo Jing’s line of defense was formidable; she could feel the wind from more than ten feet away. But she also knew that performing the ‘18 Dragon-Subduing Palms’ took a lot of energy, and her internal energy was stronger than Guo Jing’s; therefore, Mei Chaofeng changed her tactic and was trying to tire him off. She used the Nine Yin White Bone Claw and ‘cui xin zhang’ [Devastating Heart Palm Technique] interchangeably.

Huang Rong knew if this fight were prolonged, Guo Jing would suffer defeat. “Mei Shijie, it’s more than 100 moves, quickly it will reach the 200th move. You still don’t want to admit defeat?” she called. But Mei Chaofeng turned a deaf ear and increased the intensity of her attacks.

Suddenly Huang Rong got an idea; she leaped to a nearby pillar and called out, “Brother Jing, look at me!” Guo Jing launched two moves in succession: ‘li she da chuan’ [wading a wide creek] and ‘hong jian yu lu’ [phoenix slowly arise from the land], and managed to push Mei Chaofeng back far enough so that he could turn his eyes to Huang Rong. He saw her running around the pillar and made some hand signals; but did not understand what she wanted. So she called out again, “Fight in here!”

Finally Guo Jing understood; he turned around and leaped toward a nearby pillar. Mei Chaofeng followed with her five fingers to grab him, but her claw ended up penetrating the pillar. As a blind woman, she distinguished sound to know the whereabouts of her opponent; but the pillar was fixed in place and did not make any sound at all. So when Guo Jing hid behind one, how would she know?

As soon as Guo Jing overcame his surprised he immediately launched a palm which Mei Chaofeng parried. Two forces collided and both was pushed back several steps and Mei Chaofeng’s fingers were freed from the pillar. Mei Chaofeng was very angry; she did not waste another second and before Guo Jing could steady himself she sent another attack his way.

Guo Jing was able to elude, but his clothes were ripped and his arm was scratched from her fingernails. Luckily he was not injured, but Mei Chaofeng had scared the hell out of him. Guo Jing quickly counterattacked by launching three successive moves combined with hiding behind the pillar. Mei Chaofeng shouted angrily, once again her fingers pierced the pillar.

Actually Guo Jing did not want to take advantage of her blindness, so he loudly called out, “Senior Mei, my kungfu is far inferior to yours; please show me mercy!”

Everybody could see that Guo Jing had gained an upper hand albeit with the help of the pillar. They knew he was giving Mei Chaofeng a face by asking her to stop. Lu Chengfeng also thought that this was a good time to stop the fight.

But Mei Chaofeng coldly said, “If we are competing martial arts, after I could not defeat you in three moves I should have admitted defeat. But today’s fight is not a martial art competition; it is I am seeking revenge for my husband. I have already lost to you, but I still want to kill you!” As soon as she finished speaking both arms launched successive attacks: three times with her right hand and another three with her left. All attacks hit the pillar squarely on. Finally both her hands hit the pillar at the same time. With a loud crack the pillar broke and the roof collapsed.

The people in the hall were pugilists; even though they were shocked but they could jump out to escape. Lu Guanying grabbed his father and rushed outside; right in time before half of the hall was covered in debris. Unfortunately the Jin’s officer was not able to escape; his legs were pinched underneath a beam. He was screaming for help. Wanyan Kang rushed to his rescue: he lifted the beam up, pulled him up, and grabbed his hands to get out of the hall. But as soon as they turned their back suddenly they felt numbness without knowing who had sealed their acupoints.

Mei Chaofeng had always concentrated her attention to Guo Jing. As soon as she heard Guo Jing moved she followed. By now under the heavy cloud the outside was dark. As soon as everybody was able to calm himself or herself, they could see Guo Jing – Mei Chaofeng fight became fiercer than ever. They fought under the dim starlight; both parties exchanged swift blows one after another, creating gusts of wind everywhere. Compared to the fight inside the hall this fight was more intense.

The dark was disadvantageous to Guo Jing; he started to fall under Mei Chaofeng’s attacks. Mei Chaofeng’s left leg made a sweeping move, followed by her right leg kicked toward his legs. If he were hit, his leg would break for sure. But this kick was a trick move. Unexpectedly Mei Chaofeng held her leg half way and her left arm grabbed Guo Jing’s leg. Lu Guanying was looking from the sideline. “Watch out!” he cried. He had experienced defeat under Wanyan Kang with this exactly same move.

In this dangerous situation Guo Jing tried hard to overcome his fear; he used his left hand to parry Mei Chaofeng’s hand. He was fast enough, but his strength was waning. As soon as their hands collided, Mei Chaofeng understood his situation. She immediately turned her hand around and used her three fingers: middle, ring, and little fingers to scratch the back of Guo Jing’s hand. Guo Jing also realized the danger he was in; his right palm thrust toward her. It was a fierce attack, if Mei Chaofeng did not back off, both of them would be injured. Mei Chaofeng avoided the attack by leaping sideway; then she uttered a sinister laugh.

Guo Jing felt his left hand numb and itchy, then burning sensation. Lowering his head he saw three scratch marks on the back of his left palm. The scratches were bleeding only a little bit, but the blood slowly turned black. Suddenly he remembered the time he climbed that hill in the Mongolian desert; where he saw nine skulls Mei Chaofeng left behind. Priest Ma Yu had told him that Mei’s fingernails contained lethal poison. He knew immediately that his life was in grave danger.

“Rong’er, I have been poisoned!” he called out. Without waiting for Huang Rong’s respond he immediately jumped and threw both palms toward Mei Chaofeng. His intention was to seize her and force her to hand over the antidote. It was his only chance of survival.

Mei Chaofeng realized the fierceness of his attack; she jumped back to elude. Huang Rong and the others were greatly shocked by Guo Jing’s revelation. Almost together Ke Zhen’E with his iron staff followed by Huang Rong and the rest of the Six Freaks jumped and surrounded Mei Chaofeng.

“Mei Shijie!” Huang Rong shouted, “You have already lost! How could you keep fighting? Quickly take the antidote out and save him!”

Mei Chaofeng felt Guo Jing’s attack was both swift and fierce; she did not dare to lose her concentration by replying to Huang Rong’s remark; but in her heart she was delighted, “The more you exert your energy, the quicker the poison will attack your system. If I were to die here and now, I have succeeded in seeking my husband’s revenge.”

Guo Jing felt his vision blurred and his head dizzy; his whole body felt weak. He gradually lost control of his left arm; that he decided to stop fighting. The poison started to enter his system. If he had not drunk the snake’s blood he would have died by now.

Huang Rong saw his stupor condition and loudly called out, “Brother Jing! Get back!” Taking out her butterfly steel needle she jumped toward Mei Chaofeng.

Guo Jing heard her call and it raised his spirit. He thrust his left palm with the eleventh stance of the ’18-dragon subduing palms’, the ‘tu ru qi lai’ [sudden movement(?)]; only his arm moved slower than it was supposed to.

Huang Rong, Han Baoju, Nan Xiren and Quan Jinfa; four people moved together to attack Mei Chaofeng; but they saw Guo Jing’s palm squarely hit Mei Chaofeng’s shoulder and she fell down without even try to fend off. Mei Chaofeng relied on her ears to locate her opponent’s movement; and Guo Jing’s attack was so slow it did not make any noise, that was the reason she was easily hit.

Huang Rong was startled, but Han, Nan and Quan, three people had simultaneously threw themselves on Mei Chaofeng’s body to seize her. But she struggled and was able to send Han Baoju and Quan Jinfa flying backward; while at the same time struck backward to grasp Nan Xiren’s arm. Nan Xiren saw this attack and rolled himself out of the way.

Mei Chaofeng took advantage of this chaotic situation to leap up, but unexpectedly Guo Jing’s palm arrived at her back and she tumbled down one more time. Guo Jing’s palm was swift and silent, but actually it was weak. Even though she was hit on her vital part, she was not injured.

After sending his attack twice Guo Jing’s energy was depleted; he staggered and fell down right next to Mei Chaofeng. Huang Rong immediately threw herself his way to protect him.

Mei Chaofeng heard someone was falling on her side, without wasting a single moment she sent her five fingers to grab, but to her surprise she felt pricking pain. She realized she had hit the thorns on Huang Rong’s ‘ruan wei jia’ [soft hedgehog armor]. Hastily she used ‘li yu da ting’ [carp style leaping] to get away.

Suddenly somebody shouted, “Take this!” and something was thrown her way. Mei Chaofeng did not know what was being thrown to her; so she just lifted her right arm to parry. That thing fell down and broke to pieces. Turned out it was a chair.

That chair was followed by another thing, bigger than the first. This time the Iron Corpse stretched her left hand to grab. It was a tabletop; wide and slippery, so she could not have a good grasp. Who threw all these things to her? It was Zhu Cong. He immediately threw a couple of table legs her way. Mei Chaofeng lifted her leg and kicked the table away. Zhu Cong eluded the table but at the same time stretched his right hand and suddenly Mei Chaofeng felt three things fell down her collar. They were cold and slippery, and kept wiggling inside her clothes. She was scared, “What are these things? Is it some witchcraft or secret weapons?” Hastily she groped around her clothes and caught three goldfish.

She was relieved, but suddenly she froze! Her porcelain bottle of antidote had disappeared, along with her dagger and the scroll of Nine Yin Manual, which was wrapped around the dagger.

The three goldfish were from the fish bowl that was crushed when the roof collapsed. Zhu Cong knew Mei Chaofeng was careful and could not easily deceived, unlike Peng Lianhu or Qiu Qianren; so he used the goldfish to divert her attention while at the same time executed his quick hand to pull away Mei Chaofeng’s pocket’s content. He took the porcelain bottle out, pulled its plug and took it to Ke Zhen’E to smell while whispered softly, “Well?”

Ke Zhen’E himself was an expert in using poison. As soon as he smelled the antidote he said, “To be taken orally, also to be applied to the wound. This is the antidote.”

Mei Chaofeng heard their conversation and immediately realized what happened. Furiously she leaped toward them. Ke Zhen’E swung his iron staff to block her, assisted by Han Baoju’s ‘jin long bian’ [golden dragon whip], Quan Jinfa’s ‘cheng gan’ [balance beam – a merchant’s weight scale], and Nan Xiren’s ‘chun gang bian dan’ [carrying pole made of pure steel]. Mei Chaofeng quickly put her hand to her waist to retrieve her own whip but suddenly she heard a gust of wind from a sword coming her way. It was Han Xiaoying. She was forced to parry this attack first.

Meanwhile Zhu Cong gave the antidote to Huang Rong. “Have him swallow some, then spread some on his wound,” he said. And then he also put the dagger he took from Mei Chaofeng to Guo Jing’s pocket. “This dagger was yours,” he said and joining his brothers and sister he lifted his iron fan to attack Mei Chaofeng. The six had trained hard these past ten years and had improved their martial arts considerably; therefore, this battle was many times fiercer than the one on that Mongolian barren hill.

Lu Chengfeng and his son were amazed witnessing this fierce battle. “Mei Chaofeng’s martial art is no doubt swift, fierce and ruthless; but these Six Freaks of Jiangnan are certainly live up to their names,” they thought. “Ladies and gentlemen, please stop! Please listen to what I have to say!” Lu Chengfeng loudly shouted. But both parties were fighting fiercely, who would actually have time to listen to him?

Not long after he took the antidote, Guo Jing was slowly regaining his consciousness. The poison attacked his system fast, but the antidote also neutralized it fast. His wound was still hurting, but he was able to move his left arm. After putting the dagger away he immediately jumped and joined the battle. As before, he started slowly, and when his palm was almost touching Mei Chaofeng’s body, he added more strength. It was the stance ‘zhen jing bai li’ [hundred li’s shocks]. Mei Chaofeng was busy fending off her attackers and could not hear Guo Jing’s palm. Suddenly she was hit and fell down immediately right at the moment when Han Baoju’s whip and Nan Xiren’s pole were coming down on her.

Guo Jing bent his waist and parried these two weapons. “Masters! Please forgive her!” he shouted. The Six Freaks complied. They held their weapons and leaped back.

Mei Chaofeng stood up and got ready to fight again. Knowing that Guo Jing was fierce and she could not see, she took out her ‘du long yin bian’ and readied it in front of her. Guo Jing did not move, “We are not going to fight you anymore. You are free to go!” he shouted.

Mei Chaofeng put her whip back and said, “Please give my manual back.” Zhu Cong was puzzled. “I did not take your manual,” he said. “You know the Seven Freaks have never lied.” He did not realize that the skin wrapped around the dagger was the Nine Yin Manual.

Mei Chaofeng knew even though the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan had deep enmity toward her, but they always meant what they said and never deceived anybody. She thought the manual must have fallen down when she was fighting Guo Jing a moment ago. So she bent her knees and groped around the floor looking for the manual. Where could that manual be?

A blind lady groping around the floor made a pitiful scene. Lu Chengfeng told his son, “Guanying, help your Martial Uncle Mei to look.” But in his heart he actually thought that the manual belonged to his Master, therefore, it must be returned to the Master. He faked a cough to signal his son, and Lu Guanying understood. He nodded. Guo Jing was also looking around, but where did that manual go?

“Mei Shijie,” Lu Chengfeng said, “Your manual is not here, perhaps you dropped it on your way here.”

Mei Chaofeng did not answer; she kept groping around. Suddenly everybody’s eyes were blurred and that green-robed man reappeared beside her. His movement was so swift that nobody saw anything but Mei Chaofeng’s body was lifted off the ground and an instant later they were gone and vanished among the trees outside the hall. Mei Chaofeng was very skilled, yet that man had captured her without any struggle. They looked at each other in blank dismay. This person’s skill was unbelievable.

The hall was quiet; the only distant noise was from the waves of the lake striking the shore. A long while later Ke Zhen’E broke the silence. “My young disciple had fought that wicked woman and damaged your mansion. I feel deep regret.”

“I do not dare,” Lu Chengfeng answered. “The Six Freaks and Hero Guo have visited our place today; that was an honor to us all; not mentioning that you have helped my family escape a disaster. What Hero Ke just said, wouldn’t that make us look like outsiders?”

“I request the honorable guests to take a rest inside the hall,” Lu Guanying added. “Brother Guo, are you still in pain?”

“I am all right,” answered Guo Jing. At that moment the green-robed man came back along with Mei Chaofeng. They stood in front of the hall. Mei Chaofeng put her hands on her waist and shouted, “Guo Kid! You have used Hong Qigong’s ’18-dragon subduing palms’ to fight me. I am blind and could not see your moves. Mei Chaofeng did not care about life or death, victory or defeat; but if this matter were spread out in the Jianghu world, wouldn’t the reputation of my Benevolent Master of Peach Blossom Island be ruined? Come! Let us fight again!”

“I am not your match to begin with,” Guo Jing honestly answered. “I took advantage of your blindness to protect my own life. I have admitted defeat a while ago.”

“The ’18-dragon subduing palms’ have 18 moves,” Mei Chaofeng asked, “Why did you only use part of it?”

“Because I am not smart …” Guo Jing answered; Huang Rong had signaled him not to reveal his secret, but Guo Jing continued, “… Senior Hong taught me only 15 moves.”

“Very good!” Mei Chaofeng said. “You only know 15 moves yet you defeated Mei Chaofeng. Is that old man Hong Qigong really good? No! I can’t take it. We must fight again!”

Everybody felt strange; apparently Mei Chaofeng did not come back to avenge her husband, but to dispute Huang Yaoshi and Hong Qigong’s reputation.

Guo Jing was still calm. “Miss Huang is younger than I am, but I still am not her match, how could I be your match?” he said. “I have always admired Peach Blossom Island’s martial arts.”

“Mei Shijie,” Huang Rong interrupted. “What are you talking about? Who in the world can exceed Father’s martial art skill?

“No way! I must fight him again!” Mei Chaofeng insisted. Without waiting for Guo Jing to answer she stretched her claw toward him. Guo Jing could not hold himself much longer; he eluded the attack and said, “If that’s the case, I will ask Senior Mei to teach me some lessons.” Then he launched a strong counterattack.

Mei Chaofeng parried it by turning her claw out. “Use your silent moves!” she said, “You are not my match if you are using loud moves.”

Guo Jing leaped back several steps and said, “My First Master Ke’s eyes are not perfect. I loathe it if others bully him with silent moves. How could I use silent moves to bully you? I was injured by your poison and at that critical moment I inadvertently use a silent move. If we fight fair and square, frankly I am not your match.”

Mei Chaofeng could hear the sincerity in his voice, her heart was stirred. “This kid is kind hearted,” she thought. But she shouted, “I told you to use your silent moves. I have a way to counter it, why do you keep nagging like an old woman?”

Guo Jing looked at that strange green-robed man. “Could it be that he taught her how to cope with silent moves just now?” he thought. But because Mei Chaofeng insisted he did not have any choice but to comply. “Very well,” he finally said. “I will fight you another 15 moves.” He thought that by using the 15 out of 18 dragon subduing palms he might not win, but at least he could defend himself.

Guo Jing jumped to get closer to her, then continued by tiptoeing forward, slowly sent his palm to strike. But before his palm hit its target he heard a light sound and Mei Chaofeng’s turn her wrist to grab his hand. It was like her eyes were not blind at all. Guo Jing was surprised, he immediately pull his left palm and slid his body to the left to launch the [wading a wide creek] slowly.

His palm had only moved several inches when again he heard a light sound and Mei Chaofeng had already blocked his attack. Guo Jing retracted his palm a little bit slower that Mei Chaofeng’s fingernails swept very close to his face. He hastily leaped back and thought, “How could she know where my next attack would be?”

His third attack was his fiercest stance, the ‘kang long you hui’ [the proud dragon show remorse] but again, following a light sound Mei Chaofeng’s steel-like fingernails moved to grab his wrist. Guo Jing knew the secret must be on that light sound, so with his fourth move he stole a glance at that strange man. This time he was able to see that man flicked something to the air and that thing created a light sound.

“Ah, it really is him!” Guo Jing understood. “But how could he know where my next move will be? Hmmm … it was like the time when Huang Rong fought that old man Liang Ziwong; Hong Qigong had broken his attacks in advance. Now this man is using the same method to defeat me. All right, I’ll fight for the full 15 moves, and then I will admit defeat.”

Even though the stances of the ’18-dragon subduing palms’ did not change and Guo Jing did not learn the whole set, but his attacks were not light. However, Mei Chaofeng always knew in advance where his attack would go and sometimes she would move ahead of Guo Jing that instead of in the defensive, she was actually on the offensive.

Several moves later that strange man flicked three pebbles in succession. Mei Chaofeng was following the sound and launched three attacks one after another. Guo Jing was forced to elude one and only managed to parry the other two.

The fight was getting fiercer; the wind generated by their hands was getting stronger. Periodically the light sound of the pebble was heard. Huang Rong understood the situation was not favorable. She silently picked some debris from the floor and flicked them away. Some were just aimed at nothing in particular, trying to confuse Mei Chaofeng; some were aimed to hit the strange man’s pebbles down. But unexpectedly the man’s pebbles were amazing; they were not knocked down by Huang Rong’s debris, on the contrary, Huang Rong’s debris was knocked down while his pebbles kept flying. Hence his clues to Mei Chaofeng were not hindered.

Lu Chengfeng and his son, along with the Six Freaks were greatly amazed. “The strength from this man’s fingers is amazing; how is he capable of giving the pebble this kind of force? Even an arrow would not create such a strong noise. If this pebble hits someone, wouldn’t that someone’s bones be shattered by it?” they thought.

By now Huang Rong had stopped her intervention. She stood and stared blankly at that strange man. In the meantime Guo Jing was starting to lose; Mei Chaofeng’s attacks became swifter and fiercer.

Suddenly two loud hums were heard; two pebbles flew from the strange man’s hand. The first one was slower than the latter one. The latter hit the first and two pebbles broke into pieces and flew to all directions. Mei Chaofeng took that opportunity to pounce on Guo Jing. He stumbled trying to avoid the attack. Remembering Nan Xiren’s advice, ‘da bu guo, tao!’ [if no match, run!] he turned around and ran away.

Out of the blue Huang Rong cried out, “Father!” And she rushed toward the strange man, threw herself at his bosom and loudly cried, “Father! Your face … what happened to your face …?” Nobody expected this, so the strange man stood still without saying anything.

Guo Jing turned around and saw Mei Chao Feng stood very close to him. She was trying to listen to the sound of the pebble. Guo Jing saw a very good opportunity and sent his right palm slowly toward her shoulder using only about 10% of his strength. But as soon as his palm hit, his left palm followed with a full strength. Mei Chao Feng was squarely hit by both palms and fell tumbling down; she was not able to stand back up.

Lu Chengfeng heard Huang Rong called that strange man her father; he was overwhelmed with joy and sorrow at the same time. He forgot his legs were lame and jumped toward the man, but fell face down on the floor.

The strange man let his left arm in Huang Rong’s embrace and lifted his right hand to slowly take off a thin mask from his face. He was wearing a genuine skin mask; no wonder his face was emotionless like that of a corpse. His true complexion was clear and good-looking, with a hint of sadness yet bore an aura of dignity around him; resembling an image of deity.

Huang Rong had not dried her tears yet she screamed in joy; snatched the mask and wore it on her own face while bouncing up and down and hugged that man’s neck, giggling incessantly. That man was indeed the Peach Blossom Island Master, Huang Yaoshi.

“Father, why did you come over here?” she asked, grinning from ear to ear. “That old man Qiu had said bad things about you. Why didn’t you teach him a lesson?”

“Why did I come?” Huang Yaoshi sternly asked. “I came looking for you!” Huang Rong was ecstatic, she clapped her hands and shouted, “Father! You are looking for me? Wonderful! That’s just wonderful!”

“What do you mean ‘wonderful’?” Huang Yaoshi asked. “Do you think it was wonderful to find a useless girl like you?”

Huang Rong felt bad. She knew after losing the second half of the Nine Yin Manual to his own disciple, Chen Xuanfeng and Mei Chaofeng, her father had determined to master the skill with his own intelligence. He once said that the Nine Yin Manual was created by a human being. If other man could create it, why wouldn’t he be able to re-create it? He then made a vow not to leave the Peach Blossom Island until he had mastered the skill. Unexpectedly his prodigal daughter had run away that he was forced to break his own vow and came looking for her.

“Father, I promise to be a good daughter and will listen to you from now on until the day I die,” Huang Rong solemnly promised.

Huang Yaoshi was very happy to find his daughter well; and now listening to her promise had put him in an excellent mood. “Help your Shijie to get up,” he said.

Huang Rong immediately complied. Lu Guanying also helped his father to kneel down in front of their Master. Huang Yaoshi sighed and said, “Lu Chengfeng, you are a good disciple. I was wrong to lose my temper and act rash by falsely accusing you.”

Lu Chengfeng was sobbing. “Master, are you well?” To which Huang Yaoshi replied, “Luckily I am not irritated to death.” Huang Rong looked at her father with a naughty look, “Father, you were not talking about me, were you?” Huang Yaoshi snorted and said, “You are part of it.”

Huang Rong stuck her tongue and diverted his attention. “Father, let me introduce you to my friends. These are the well-known heroes of the Jianghu, the Six Freaks of Jiangnan; Brother Jing’s Masters.”

Huang Yaoshi did not even look at them. “I don’t want to meet outsiders,” he said coldly. The Six Freaks was irritated by his arrogance, but since the man owned a god-like martial art, they kept their peace.

“Do you have anything you’d like to take home with you?” Huang Yaoshi asked his daughter. “Get them and let’s go home together.”

“Nothing,” Huang Rong answered with a smile. “But I do have something I need to give back to Martial Brother Lu.” She took out the Nine Flower Revealed Jade pills from her pocket and gave them back to Lu Chengfeng. “Lu Shige (Elder Martial Brother Lu), these pills are not easy to make. We have two pills from you and that’s enough.”

Lu Chengfeng waved his hand and said to Huang Yaoshi, “The disciple has seen the Benevolent Master today. I am extremely joyful. I want to present those pills to you. I wonder if you could stay for a while in my humble abode. I will be …”

“Is he your son?” Huang Yaoshi interrupted him, pointing toward Lu Guanying. “He is,” answered the disciple.

Lu Guanying did not wait for his father prompting. He immediately bent his knees and kowtowed several times and said, “Grand Martial Disciple pays his respect to Grand Martial Master.”

“It’s all right!” Huang Yaoshi said. Without bending his body he extended his left hand as if he was helping Guanying to stand up; but then unexpectedly his right hand struck Guanying’s shoulder.

Lu Chengfeng was shocked! “Master, he is my only son …” Huang Yaoshi’s palm was not light. Lu Guanying was thrown back seven, eight steps, then he fell face down on the floor.

“You are very good,” Huang Yaoshi told Lu Chengfeng. “You have not passed your skill to him. Is he a disciple of the ‘xian xia pai’ [immortal red clouds sect]?”

Lu Chengfeng was relieved to know his master was only testing his son’s martial art. “Your disciple did not dare to disobey our school’s rule. I did not dare to teach my skill to others without Benevolent Master’s permission. This child is indeed the disciple of ‘ku mu da shi’ [Reverend Dead Wood] of the ‘xian xia pai’.”

Huang Yaoshi sneered, “Kumu dare to call himself ‘Reverend’ [da shi could also mean ‘big/grand master’] with his skill? Your skill exceeds his a hundred fold. Starting tomorrow you will teach your own son. Xian Xia Pai’s martial arts do not hold a candle compared to ours.”

Lu Chengfeng was ecstatic, he hastily told his son, “Quick! Express your gratitude to the Grand Martial Master!” Lu Guanying immediately kowtowed some more to Huang Yaoshi. Huang Yaoshi lifted his head, completely ignoring Guan Ying.

Lu Chengfeng had learned martial art in the Peach Blossom Island; even though both his legs were lame he did not lose any skill pertaining to his upper body. He realized very well the superiority of his own school. He had seen it with his own eyes how hard Lu Guanying trained, yet his achievement was limited. He was really upset, but since he did not dare to violate his school’s rule, he had to restrain himself. And in order not to disappoint his son, he pretended he did not know martial arts at all. Now that his master had given him permission he knew his son’s martial art skill would improve in leaps and bounds; how could he be not happy? He wanted to say some grateful words, but he was choked.

Huang Yaoshi saw this, but he simply said, “Take this!” He waved his right hand and two sheets of paper gently flew toward Chengfeng. The distance between them was actually more than ten feet, but the papers flew gently like it was hand delivered to Chengfeng. This demonstration of energy was even more impressive than flicking pebbles, since the paper was flimsy and more difficult to throw. Everybody could not help but feeling very impressed.

Huang Rong was very happy, she quietly approached Guo Jing and asked, “Brother Jing, what do you think of my Father’s martial art?”

“Your Father’s martial art is superb,” Guo Jing answered. “Rong’er, as soon as you are home, you have to train diligently, don’t waste your time playing.”

“You are coming with us, aren’t you?” Huang Rong asked.

“I have to follow my Masters,” Guo Jing said. “I will look for you later.”

Huang Rong was anxious. “No! I don’t want to leave you.” Guo Jing grinned; he did not want to be separated from her either, but he knew they did not have much choice and was sad too.

Lu Chengfeng took the papers and examined them. He saw the papers were full of characters. Lu Guanying took a torch from a villager; he came close to his father and set the light for his father to read. Lu Chengfeng could see the papers were full of characters and symbols. They are instructions to train martial art; Huang Yaoshi’s own handwriting. He had not seen his master’s handwriting for twenty years, yet he recognized the Master’s handwriting was tall and straight, as elegant as he remembered it. On the right hand was the title, ‘xuan feng sao ye tui fa’ [sweeping leave whirlwind/tornado leg/kicking technique], six characters. Lu Chengfeng knew that the ‘xuan feng sao ye tui fa’ and ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’ (see previous part above) were his Master’s own ingeniously martial arts creation. None of his master’s six disciples had ever learned this leg technique. He imagined how delighted he must have been if he learned this technique then. But still, due to his master’s mercy he could teach this technique to his son even now. He was grateful. He put the papers into his pocket and bent down to express his gratitude.

“This set of leg technique is entirely different than the one you knew,” Huang Yaoshi said. “The external techniques remain, but the energy to drive the technique must be developed internally. You practice and meditate daily, if your progress is good, you will be able to walk without a cane within five or six years.”

Lu Chengfeng was emotional, all kind of feelings flowed in his heart.

“Your disability is permanent,” Huang Yaoshi added. “You won’t be able to fight relying on your legs technique; but if you diligently train this, you won’t have any problem walking like normal people. Oh …” He regretted that consumed with anger he had punished his four innocent disciples severely. In recent years he racked his brain to create the new ‘xuan feng sao ye tui fa’ with improved internal energy training method. His plan was to find his four disciples and bestowed this new technique that they would be able to walk again. Only he was too arrogant; even when his heart was full of regrets, his mouth was not willing to admit it. Therefore, although this leg technique was entirely a new creation of his, he still used the irrelevant old name; pretending he did not do anything wrong. After a while he continued, “Go look for your three other brothers, teach them this new technique.”

“Yes,” Lu Chengfeng answered. Then he added, “Qu Shidie (younger martial brother) and Feng Shidie’s whereabouts are unknown to me, but Wu Shidie had passed away many years ago.”

Huang Yaoshi felt a stab of pain in his heart; his eyes glistened. Then his penetrating gaze turned toward Mei Chaofeng. Luckily she was blind and could not see that, for the other people around her shuddered just looking at his gaze.

“Chaofeng,” he called icily. “You have been really wicked, but you also have suffered greatly. When that old man Qiu said I was dead, you shed tears and even wanted to seek revenge for me. Because of those tears I am willing to let you live a few more years.”

Not in a million years did Mei Chaofeng expect her master to forgive her that easy. She was delighted and quickly kowtowed. “All right, all right!” Huang Yaoshi said. Then he stretched his hand toward her back and tapped gently three times.

Mei Chaofeng suddenly felt a stabbing pain, which gradually became more intense that she almost passed out. With a trembling voice she begged, “Benevolent Master, your disciple deserve to die ten thousand times. I ask for your mercy to kill me right now, but please spare me from the ‘fu gu zhen’ [bone-penetrating needle].” She had heard for a long time from her husband that once their master’s ‘fu gu zhen’ entering their bodies, it would attach itself to the bone and slowly dispensing poison. Six times a day, following the circulation of the blood, the poison would cause an excruciating pain, but it would not kill immediately. It would take as long as twelve years for that person to die slowly from pain. The higher the person’s skill, the worse the effect of the poison would be. A normal person in pain would clench his/her teeth and exert energy trying to suppress it. But actually it was like satisfying a thirst by drinking poison, because the next attack would be more intense than the previous ones. As far as they knew it, there was no antidote for this poison.

Mei Chaofeng was desperate; she had entered a living hell, why would she want to live much longer? So frantically she shook her whip fiercely to take her own life. But Huang Yaoshi quickly stretched his hand and snatched the whip away. “Why are you anxious to die? It’s not that easy!” he coldly said.

Mei Chao Feng did not give up easily. “Master must have wanted to torture me, that was why he won’t allow me to die,” she thought. Unable to restrain her grief she turned toward Guo Jing and smiled sadly, “I have to thank you for killing my husband; that way that bastard husband of mine died an easy death.”

Huang Yaoshi ignored her remark and said, “This ‘fu gu zhen’ would work after a year. I’ll give you three assignments to do within this one-year period. Once you complete your assignments, come and see me at the Peach Blossom Island. I have a way to neutralize the poison.”

Mei Chaofeng’s hope was rekindled. “Your disciple will go through fire or water to accomplish whatever Master cares to assign to me.” But Huang Yaoshi coldly answered, “You haven’t heard what I have to say, yet you complied that quick?” Mei Chaofeng did not dare to answer, she only kowtowed.

“First, you have lost the Nine Yin Manual,” Huang Yaoshi continued. “You have to find it and give it back to me. If somebody else had laid eyes on it, you must kill that person. If there were a hundred people had seen it, kill all the hundred people. If you only kill ninety-nine, don’t even think of coming to see me.”

All who listened shuddered involuntarily. The Six Freaks of Jiang Nan thought, “Huang Yaoshi is known as the Eastern Heretic; his character is really evil.”

They heard him continued, “Your Qu, Lu, Wu and Feng, four martial brothers have endured suffering and hardships because of you. You are to find your brothers Lingfeng and Mofeng, and find out if Mianfeng had left behind any family. You are to take them all to this ‘gui yun zhuang’ [Cloud Manor] and let your brother Chengfeng to take care of them. This is your second assignment.”

Mei Chaofeng nodded her head repeatedly. Lu Chengfeng thought, “I could manage this.” But knowing his master’s temperament he did not dare to say anything.

Huang Yaoshi raised his head, looking at the starry sky above and slowly said, “You have taken the Nine Yin Manual voluntarily. I did not teach you nor did I tell you to practice it. You know what to do.” He paused for a moment then said, “This is the third.”

Mei Chaofeng was silent for a moment; she did not fully grasp her master’s intention. After pondering in her heart she suddenly understood. With a trembling voice she said, “After I have completed the first two assignments, your disciple knows how to get rid of the ‘jiu yin bai gu zhua’ and ‘cui xin zhang’ I have learned.”

Guo Jing did not understand; he pulled Huang Rong’s sleeve and signaling her with his eyes, asking for an explanation. Huang Rong’s countenance was sad, she lifted her right hand and made a chopping action toward her left arm. Guo Jing finally understood, “Oh, she is going to chop her own arms.” His mind kept wandering, “This Mei Chaofeng is really wicked, but she repented. Why is the punishment so harsh? I need to talk to Rong’er; perhaps we can ask her father’s forgiveness.”

While he was still thinking, Huang Yaoshi beckoned him to come and asked, “Your name is Guo Jing?” Guo Jing stepped forward and paid an obeisance. “Disciple Guo Jing at Senior Huang’s service.”

“You are the one who killed my disciple Chen Xuanfeng, aren’t you? Your skill must be extraordinary, ha?” Huang Yaoshi said.

Guo Jing understood his sarcasm; his heart turned cold. “I was very young and ignorant. Senior Chen seized me up; I was scared and panic. I had injured him inadvertently.”

Huang Yaoshi snorted and coldly said, “Chen Xuanfeng was indeed my rebellious disciple; but it was our right to punish him. How could a disciple of Peach Blossom Island be punished by an outsider?” Guo Jing was dumbstruck.

Huang Rong quickly came to his rescue. “Father, he was only six, what did he know?” Huang Yaoshi did not like what he heard; he continued, “The old man Hong usually did not take disciple, and he was very proud of his ’18-dragon subduing palms’; but he had taught you 15 moves, you must have something good in you. If not, you must have sweet-talked him into teaching you. You have defeated my disciple with his skill; next time he sees me, I bet he would boast to no end.”

“Father, the sweet talk part was indeed true,” Huang Rong said with a smile. “But it was not he, it was I. He is just an honest kid. Your words were too hard, you have scared him.”

After he lost his wife, Huang Yaoshi was very fond of his daughter. In fact, he was too lenient to her that she was spoilt. That day he scolded her and she immediately ran away from home. He thought being a spoilt kid, after wandering the Jianghu for a while Huang Rong would be destitute and was in bad condition. Who would have thought that she was not thin and pale, but was tender and beautiful as ever? Then he saw her intimacy with Guo Jing; how she was always trying to protect him. Secretly he was jealous because she had never shown the same affection to her father. His jealousy turned to anger. He ignored his daughter and said to Guo Jing, “By teaching you the old Beggar obviously did not hold me in high regard. He let you defeat Mei Chaofeng; he thought my disciples are a whole bunch of nobodies …”

Huang Rong understood that her father was upset because Chaofeng was defeated by the ’18-dragon subduing palms’. She hurriedly said, “Who says the Peach Blossom Island disciples are nobody? He was lucky because Mei Shijie’s eyes are blind, what’s so special about that? If they were fighting fair and square, he would be defeated a long time ago. Let your daughter proves it to you.” She jumped out and called Guo Jing, “Come! Let me use the skills my Father taught me to fight Hong Qigong’s special skill.”

She knew by that time both Guo Jing and she had improved tremendously. They were more or less equally matched. She thought that as long as they could fight fairly for about a hundred moves her father would be satisfied. Guo Jing understood her intention; besides, Huang Yaoshi did not say anything, so he agreed and said, “You are always superior to me. All right, I will let you beat me up a couple more times.” And he immediately walked to Huang Rong.

“Watch out!” Huang Rong called out. Her hand swept horizontally with a gust of wind, it was the ‘yu ji feng kuang’ [heavy rain fierce wind] from the ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’. Guo Jing immediately counterattacked using the ’18-dragon subduing palms’. However, he was very fond of Huang Rong; hence did not use his full strength. Unfortunately, the ’18-dragon subduing palms’ relied heavily on strong internal energy; in term of palm technique, it could not be compared to the exquisite moves of ‘luo ying shen jian zhang’. So after several moves he was beaten several times by Huang Rong’s fist. Huang Rong on the other hand, knew that Guo Jing was strong and resilient, so to appease her father she used her full strength. “Aren’t you going to admit defeat now?” she called out loudly. Her mouth said those words, but her hands did not stop beating him.

Huang Yaoshi sneered, “What kind of acrobatic show are you demonstrating?” Nobody saw him moved, but suddenly he was near the two, stretched both hands to grab and throw them away. Although the movements were similar, actually he only flung his daughter to the side, while his right arm threw Guo Jing at full strength. His intention was obvious, he wanted Guo Jing to roll around on the ground. However, although Guo Jing was not able to resist the throw, he was able to turn his body midair, that when he landed, he did not fall down, but stood firmly on the ground. His face was pale and was about to throw up.

Instead of praising his skill, Huang Yaoshi’s anger flamed. “I don’t have any disciple to fight you. Come! Let me take your few stances.”

Guo Jing hastily bowed and said, “Even if I have courage as high as the sky I still would not dare to fight Senior.”

Huang Yaoshi sneered. “Humph, fight me?” He coldly said. “You are not my match, kid! Tell you what, I will stand still here, you attack me with your ’18-dragon subduing palms’; if I ever move or raise my hand to parry, you win.”

“Disciple still does not dare,” Guo Jing said.

“I don’t care! Dare or not, you have to fight me!” Huang Yaoshi said.

Guo Jing did not know what to do. “I don’t have any choice; I’d better hit him several times, I think he is going to borrow my own strength to shake me up. So what if I have to fall some more times?” he thought.

Huang Yaoshi saw him hesitating, but his face had shown his willingness to try. So he urged him, “Quickly hit me! If not, I am going to hit you!”

“Since Senior commanded me to, I would not dare to disobey,” Guo Jing said. He bent his body and moved his hand in a circling motion, launching the ‘kang long you hui’. He was afraid he might injure Huang Yaoshi; also, he worried that if he used his full strength the counterattack would be fierce; therefore, he used only 60% of his strength. His palm struck Huang Yaoshi’s chest; but to his surprise his palm slid like the chest was slick with oil. “Why, you didn’t even want to hit me,” Huang Yaoshi mocked. “Do you think I cannot take the overwhelming power of the ’18-dragon subduing palms’? Is that it?”

“Disciple did not dare,” Guo Jing answered. Then he launched his second move, the ‘huo yue zai yuan’ [leaping the abyss(?)]. This time he did not restrain anything. Exhaling his breath his left palm lunged toward Huang Yaoshi’s throat, his right palm swiftly moved in front of the left, went straight to Huang Yaoshi’s lower abdomen.

“Now you are fighting,” Huang Yaoshi said. Hong Qigong had taught Guo Jing to train this stance against a pine tree. The tree needs to be held still, then Guo Jing was supposed to hit it with a sudden movement. Only then did he manage to break the tree. He had practiced this stance thousand of times. But as soon as his palm touched Huang Yaoshi’s clothes he felt Huang Yaoshi’s abdomen shrunk and his palm was sucked in real hard that he felt pain because his own joint was dislocated. He immediately leaped back several feet. His hand was limp.

The Six Freaks of Jiangnan saw Huang Yaoshi’s body did not move, nor did he lifted a hand to parry; yet he was capable of dislocating Guo Jing’s wrist. They were amazed, but also worried.

“You have to also receive my palm!” suddenly Huang Yaoshi shouted, “Let you know which one is superior, the Old Beggar’s ’18-dragon subduing palms’ or my Peach Blossom Island’s martial arts.” Before he finished speaking a gust of wind had already blown toward Guo Jing. He endured his pain and jumped to avoid the attack. Unexpectedly Huang Yaoshi did not continue his palm but swept his legs instead. Guo Jing came tumbling down.

Huang Rong was alarmed. “Father, no!” she cried, and quickly jumped forward and bent down to protect him.

Huang Yaoshi did not stop; he simply changed his fist to an open palm. He grabbed his daughter’s vest and lifter her up, while his left fist went straight toward Guo Jing.

The Six Freaks of Jiang Nan realized that if Guo Jing got hit, he would certainly die or at least suffer a very heavy injury. They moved at once. Quan Jinfa was the first. He struck Huang Yaoshi’s left arm with his steel balance arm. Huang Yaoshi calmly put his daughter aside; waved both hands casually and that steel balance arm changed direction; striking the long sword in the hand of Han Xiaoying. Both the balance arm and the sword broke into four pieces.

“Master … !” Lu Chengfeng called out. He wanted to ask his master to stop, but knowing his master’s temperament well, he did not dare to continue.

Huang Rong cried. “Father, kill him!” she shouted. “You will never see me again.” Without further ado she ran out toward the Tai Lake and leaped into the water.

Huang Yaoshi was surprised, then angry. He knew his daughter was very good in water. She used to swim and dive in the ‘tang hay’ [East China Sea]; playing with fish and turtles. Sometime she went swimming for a whole day. But this time he was not sure when he would be able to see her again. So he ran toward the lake to try to grab her, but he was too late. Huang Rong had already vanished in the dark water. Huang Yaoshi stared blankly on the lakeshore.

After a long while he turned his head and saw Zhu Cong was mending Guo Jing’s wrist. His anger flared and he wanted to vent his frustration toward this people. “You seven people! Quickly kill yourselves and save me the trouble,” he coldly said.

Ke Zhen’E wielded his iron staff in front of his chest and proudly said, “Real men do not fear death. Do you think we are afraid of suffering?” Zhu Cong also said, “The Six Freaks of Jiangnan have returned to our hometown. If our bones can be buried here in the Lake Tai, what more could we want?” The six unsheathed their weapons or readied their bare hands and assume the battle formation.

Guo Jing thought hard. “My six masters do not have enmity with this man. They will only give up their lives in vain. How could I let them be in the harm’s way?” he said in his heart. He quickly jumped forward. “Chen Xuanfeng died in my hand! It has nothing to do with my masters! I will pay his life with mine!” But then he had another thought, “The First Master, Third Master and Seventh Master are hot-tempered. If they see me losing my life, they will surely fight to their deaths. I have to stall. I must deal with him later, alone.” He boldly positioned himself between Huang Yaoshi and the Six.

“My only regret is that my father’s death has not been avenged. I beseech Senior to give me a month grace period. After 30 days I will personally come to the Peach Blossom Island to give up my life there,” he fearlessly said.

Huang Yaoshi’s anger has subsided by now; plus, he was worried about his daughter. He lost his appetite to fight. So he waved his hand casually and walked away.

Everybody was surprised; how did Guo Jing’s simple speech could send him off just like that? They were suspicious that he was playing a trick; so they kept their eyes open wide in full alert. But after waiting a while Huang Yaoshi still did not come back.

After a while Lu Chengfeng regained his composure and invited everybody to go back to the hall for some rest.

Mei Chaofeng suddenly laughed; waving her sleeves and then turned around and leaped outside. Before long she had vanished in the dark.

“Mei Shijie!” Lu Chengfeng called out, “Take your disciple with you!”

But the darkness swallowed his voice. Mei Chaofeng had already gone far.

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